Fans of baking competitions shouldn't have been surprised to see Maddie Carlos of Anoka on "Holiday Wars" on Sunday. It's her fifth appearance on the Food Network in as many years.
Neither will fans of her popular Coon Rapids bakery, Something Sweet by Maddie Lu, where she's been baking custom cakes, cupcakes and macarons since 2015. (Her second location, Macarons by Maddie Lu, opened at the Mall of America in 2017.)
We caught up with Carlos, 26, before the "Holiday Wars" premiere to talk about the show and what's she baking up next.
Her Food Network résumé: For her first appearance, on "Holiday Baking Championship" in 2016, producers approached Carlos after seeing her work on an Instagram post. The show aired just months after her bakery opened. Since then, she's been on "Santa's Big Baking Blizzard" and won "The Big Bake" and "Winner Cake All" competitions.
The "Holiday Wars" setup: Carlos is part of a team of four (the Blizzardly Bakers), three cake artists and a sugar/chocolate professional, that was selected by the network. "We only had a couple of days to really get to know our teammates and our skill sets," she said. The sugar/chocolate artist came on board last — "That was a little stressful." There are five teams competing, and all advanced to round two next week.
Quick thinking: "Everything happens really fast," she said. The theme for the first episode was Holiday Parade; contestants had to create a holiday scene and bring it to life — in cake form. "It's hard to do because you have a vision and want to stay on the right track," Carlos said. "The thing I'm asked the most is 'When the clock says X amount of time, is it really that much time?' Yes. When they say go, it means go."
Competition advantages: Although she's never filmed in the same spot twice, Carlos said her previous experience does give her an edge. "I have a better idea of how fast the time goes, and have learned to not bite off more than you can chew," she said. "You always want to do the best you can do, of course, but it's easy to lose track of time."
Good for business: "The Food Network shows impact your business whether you do well or not," Carlos said. The show draws in customers — she gets a lot of "Oh, I saw you on the Food Network show!" comments — but her favorite part is the kids. "When little kids come in to meet me they think I'm this TV star, but I really don't see it that way," she said.
The COVID effect: Carlos has always banked on corporate events and weddings, but like many businesses switched gears during the pandemic. "I really pushed my social media to its limits," she said. She had to lay off most of her staff at the Coon Rapids location — "For awhile it was just me and my mom," she said — but things are now getting back to normal. She also started offering cookie decorating kits and hot chocolate bombs. She also has something you can't bake: community support. "There's no way they're going to let anything happened to us," she said.
Bestsellers: The hot chocolate bombs ($5) have been a hit, and sales of cupcakes and macarons have remained strong.
Speaking of macarons: "People come from far and wide to get those macarons," Carlos said. Last week alone she made 16,000 of them.
What's next: This week Carlos will open a pop-up at Miller Hill Mall in Duluth, where she'll sell cupcakes, macarons and hot chocolate bombs.
To watch: The second season of "Holiday Wars" airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on the Food Network.